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Seven Portable Bluetooth Speaker Systems, Tested And Reviewed

Eton Rukus XL

Eton isn't a common name is household audio, but the company has been around since the mid-'80s. It specializes in battery-powered audio devices able to harness alternative power sources like solar energy.

Bundle And First Impression

The Rukus XL costs $200 on Amazon. At that price, the bundle isn't particularly impressive; it includes an AC adapter and documentation. Don't let that modest list fool you though. This product is actually very functional.

It's unique-looking, to start. Eton uses a rugged black plastic frame with what feels like hard rubber around the sides. The speakers are covered by a gray metal mesh. The design is simple and attractive, equally suited to a bookshelf or campsite. 

The Rukus XL measures 14.5" x 8.1" x 5.2" and weighs 3175 grams (7 lbs), making it the largest and heaviest entry into our round-up. Don't count on slipping this speaker into your backpack. It's a boombox that thankfully sports a built-in handle, though we would have liked the handle to be tackier than just smooth plastic.

A piece of soft rubber covers the control buttons, suggesting some degree of weather resistance. Eton does claim its system is suitable for outdoor use, but stops short of making any guarantees about the speakers ability to repel rain or dust. Speaking of outdoor use, though, the back of the enclosure is covered by a solar panel that deploys to charge the built-in battery. Eton claims it can fill the depleted power source in five hours given direct sunlight.

Connectivity And Controls

You can send audio to the Rukus XL through a Bluetooth 2.1 connection or a 3.5 mm audio jack. The analog input does not automatically sense a signal, so you have to press the Aux button to switch over.

This is the only product in our round-up able to charge another device connected through USB from its battery (without the AC adapter plugged in). Combined with the solar panel, you end up with some compelling possibilities. For example, you could take the Rukus XL on a sunny day trip to the lake, using it for entertainment and to keep everyone's cell phones charged up. Of course, if you prefer, USB charging can also be disabled to save power.

The USB charging point is located behind a protective compartment, giving you a convenient place to stash your phone as it charges. Eton's speaker even paired to our Android-based cell quickly via Bluetooth. It's only missing an integrated microphone, so you can't use the device for taking calls.

There are nine buttons up top: power, volume down, volume up, bass boost, auxilliary input select, pause/play, next track, previous track, and a battery life indicator.

Subjective Sound Analysis

Eton's Rukus XL delivers solid audio performance, punctuated by clear mids and crisp highs. Bass is a little subdued compared to other frequencies, but the overall sound quality is enjoyable. You may run into distortion at the highest volume level, but backing off ameliorates the issue.

Livability And Subjective Conclusion

While the Rukus XL doesn't belt out the best sound in today's competition, it's still distinctly good. The speaker's greatest strength is its utility, though. Charge the battery through an integrated solar panel while you top off your cell phone? Sure, why not? That's a great way to keep a pool party going all day long (not like you need the panel; the battery lasted almost 23 hours in our test, and that was indoors). We also measured an impressive 25-meter wireless range, which was the third-best result. If you spend equal time indoors and out, there's a good chance you'll appreciate the Rukus XL's flexibility, even at $200.

Eton Rukus XL
Power:22 W RMS
Maximum Volume at 30 Inches:84 dB Line-in83 dB Bluetooth
Speakers:2 x tweeter (1" estimated)2 x woofer (3" estimated)4 x passive radiator (2" estimated)
Impedance:Not Specified
Measured Outdoor Bluetooth Range:25 meters
Inputs:AC charging port3.5 mm input jack
Outputs:USB charging port
Controls:Power buttonVolume up buttonVolume down buttonBass boost buttonAux input buttonPause/play buttonPrevious track buttonNext track buttonBattery status buttonUSB charge switch
Battery:Built-in Li-ion rechargeable battery (capacity not specified)
Running Time at 46 dB(A), 20 inches:Approx 23 hours
Dimensions:36.8 mm (14.5”) height20.6 mm (8.1”) width13.3 mm (5.2”) depth
Weight:3175 g (7 lbs)
Build Materials:Plastic outer shell, perforated metal grille
Available Colors:Black with silver-gray accents
Accessories:AC charger and manual
Bluetooth:Bluetooth 2.1
Hands-Free Phone:No
Microphone Sensitivity:N/A
NFC Pairing:No
Charging Time:<3 hours
LED Indicators:Charging and status
Warranty:One year Price Range:$199